Reflections on the challenge on Energy

6 01 2010

We had the insulation guys here today for seven hours pumping blown cellulose (basically recycled, shredded, and treated newspaper) into the ceiling between the two floors of our house.  They focused on the perimeter and must have drilled 100 holes in the ceiling through which they pumped the insulation.  I can already feel the difference.  The floors used to be freezing cold, but NOT ANY MORE!

We had already blown-in this cellulose insulation into the attic two winters ago, but because of the Climate Pilot challenge we went back and reassessed the effectiveness of everything we had done.  We have been fundamentally challenging our most basic daily habits in an attempt to critically evaluate our current behavior and look for energy reducing opportunities. 

An example of this related to everyday activities is just doing the dishes. 

To save on water heating costs, we use cold water to rinse dishes and run the garbage disposal. 

We got out the dishwasher manual and reviewed the best settings for our dishwasher.  Our “Normal Cycle” runs for 65 minutes and according to the manual: “This cycle is for medium/heavily soiled dishes and glassware.”  It turns out that a better fit for our everyday needs is actually the “Speed Cycle” which runs for only 35 minutes –about ½ the normal time!  According to the manual: “This cycle is for everyday soiled dishes and glassware.”  So, by challenging the status quo and doing a bit of research we have been able to reduce the time the dishwasher runs on average by about 45%. 

This is just a quick example of an easy, painless change that simply required us to challenge our daily habits.  We did the same with the laundry and now wash most clothes in cold water AND on the “quick wash” cycle.  Now the kids take short showers and not baths.  Again, it was an easy and painless behavioral change, yet statistically significant in terms of reducing energy consumption and saving money.

I ordered from Amazon a Black & Decker EM100B Energy Saver Series Power Monitor  (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ELJKLE/ref=ox_ya_oh_product  ) along with a Black & Decker TLD100 Energy Series Thermal Leak Detector (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001LMTW2S/ref=ox_ya_oh_product  ). The Power Monitor attaches to the external meter and transmits a signal to a handheld device in the house and allows us to see power usage and costs in real-time.  The Thermal Leak Detector uses an infrared sensor to highlight temperature differences which can indicate leaks around doors and windows or inadequate insulation around wall and ceiling fixtures.  These have been very helpful.  In fact, this weekend I’m going over to the neighbor’s house across the street with the leak detector and a roll of weather stripping to help her cut down on cold air leaking in through the front door.

We are more than halfway through replacing nearly all of the windows in the house.  Last weekend we literally had ice on the INSIDE of some of the windows at night.  One doesn’t need a thermal leak detector to see that we needed to fix that.

By Climate Pilot Nolan Stokes

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